Case Comment: CD v ST and Z v A Government Department & Ors (C-167/12 and C-363/12)

Michèle Finck, University of Oxford

Human procreation is not longer what it used to be. While medical research has created a number of mechanisms that allow people to engage in sexual intimacy without a resulting pregnancy, it also allows those wishing to procreate but who are unable to do so biologically to have children. IVF and surrogacy in many ways challenge our conception of human procreation. Naturally, the law needs to adapt to these changes.  Surrogacy in particular however raises a number of value-laden questions, which complicates the law’s response to these medical avenues. It is thus not surprising that no homogenous position exists between Member States on this issue.

In the CD and Z cases, the CJEU had to pronounce itself on how to reconcile surrogacy with an existing legal framework on maternity leave that did not account for motherhood resulting from that mechanism. More precisely, it was faced with the question of whether a mother who did not give birth to her own child, born via a surrogate, has a right to maternity leave under EU law. Family law is not a EU competence. Maternity leave is, however, regulated by the Pregnant Workers Directive (PWD) and some aspects arising out of motherhood and employment are addressed by the Sex Discrimination Directive. In Mayr, the CJEU had already clarified that the Sex Discrimination Directive is applicable to workers undergoing IVF that have not yet been successful.

In CD and Z, the Grand Chamber established that, as a matter of EU law, only women who themselves give birth to the child can benefit from maternity leave. Two Advocates General, Wahl and Kokott, issued opinions and came to opposed conclusions. The Court followed Advocate General Wahl in its judgment. Applying Mayr, it found that the PWD only applies to women who are in fact pregnant. The Sex Discrimination Directive was found not to be applicable either as the commissioning mother of a surrogacy agreement would be in the same position as a commissioning father. Having found that the question fell outside of the ambit of EU law, the CJEU also found the Charter of Fundamental Rights to be inapplicable. In the Z judgment, the CJEU further clarified that the Framework Equality Directive and its provisions on disabilities do not apply to women unable to become or carry out a pregnancy as the directive only targets disabilities that render a worker’s involvement in professional life more burdensome, which is not the case for medical conditions that prevent women from getting pregnant or carrying out a pregnancy. Continue reading

‘Exposing a Grave Injustice’: Montreal Exclusivity and the Rights of Disabled Passengers: Stott v Thomas Cook [2014] UKSC 15

Dr Jeremias Prassl

On March 5, 2014 the Supreme Court handed down its judgment in Stott v Thomas Cook (previewed for the UK Supreme Court blog last autumn here). The case had attracted significant interest domestically and internationally, with the claimant supported by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and the Secretary of State for Transport intervening on his behalf.

Facts

During a journey from Zante, Greece, to East Midlands Airport in the autumn of 2009, the claimant Mr Stott, paralysed and permanently dependent on a wheelchair, suffered from a breach of his rights under the EU’s Disability Regulation (EC) No 1107/2006, as implemented in the United Kingdom by the Civil Aviation (Access to Air Travel for Disabled Persons and Persons with Reduced Mobility) Regulations 2007 (SI 2007/1895). The trial judge assessed compensation at £2,500 but saw himself unable to make such an award due to the exclusive application of the Montreal Convention of 1999 (‘MC’).

Thomas Cook had relied on that international convention’s uniform rules governing liability under the contract of carriage by air, suggesting that their exclusive scope of application was a well-established principle in domestic, European Union and international law and that passengers could therefore not seek redress under domestic law. Article 29 MC stipulates that

In the carriage of passengers, baggage and cargo, any action for damages, however founded, whether under this Convention or in contract or in tort or otherwise, can only be brought subject to the conditions and such limits of liability as are set out in this Convention […]

The United Kingdom is a contracting party to the Montreal Convention, the provisions of which have also been incorporated into EU law by Regulation (EC) 889/2002. Giving the only substantive judgment for the Court of Appeal, Maurice Kay LJ had found in favour of the airlines on the basis of Article 29 MC:

The real injuries to [the claimants’] feelings […] were sustained at times when the Montreal Convention governed their situations. Its exclusivity both provided and limited their rights and remedies. Accordingly, their claims for compensation for injury to feelings could not succeed. [54]

Judgment

Judgment for the Supreme Court was given by Lord Toulson, with whom Lady Hale and Lords Neuberger, Reed and Hughes agreed. Following a summary of the facts and the relevant provisions in domestic and European Union law, his Lordship turned to a discussion of the Montreal Convention, ‘Article 29 [of which] is the rock on which Mr Stott’s claim for damages foundered’ [32].

Counsel for Mr Stott had suggested that the exclusivity question raised an important point of EU law and that the MC should not be applicable to the present case, which fell outside both its substantive and temporal scope. This could be illustrated by reference to joined Cases C‑581/10 and C‑629/10 Nelson and TUI Travel plc and Case C-344/04 ex parte IATA, where the CJEU had repeatedly found that the provisions of Regulation 261/2004 for compensation and assistance to passengers in case of delayed or cancelled flights were not incompatible with the MC, but rather a complementary regime of passenger protection. In rejecting this point, and the related request for a preliminary reference under Article 267 TFEU, Lord Toulson suggested that EU law as such was not engaged, or in any way manifestly clear, as the CJEU had held in ex parte IATA [at paragraph 42], that claims for damages on an individual basis would be subject to MC exclusivity, and Mr Stott’s claim was so founded.

Counsel for the Secretary of State for Transport, on the other hand, focussed on the temporal dimension of the claim, suggesting that the Regulations had been breached long before Mr and Mrs Stott’s embarkation. This argument, too, was rejected: on the facts, the actual injury had taken place only once aboard the aircraft, and also to avoid ‘encourag[ing] deft pleading in order to circumvent the purpose of the Convention’ [60]. Lord Toulson adopted the reasoning of Sotomayor CJ in King v American Airlines (see discussion below), and held that the quality of the cause of action was irrelevant: the Montreal Convention was designed comprehensively to deal with air carriers’ liability from the moment of embarkation until disembarkation. Continue reading

Jobless EU migrants and housing benefit

Dr Iyiola Solanke

According to reports from the BBC, ‘jobless migrants from within the European Union will be denied access to housing benefit from April this year’. Housing benefit is an ‘in –work’ benefit which provides support with rent for those who are unemployed or on a low income. As it is means tested, it may not cover all rent costs. It is administered through local councils to private and social landlords. Universal credit[1] will replace housing benefit in 2015. Before then, both Home Secretary Theresa May and Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith intend to introduce plans to ‘prevent exploitation of the UK welfare system’ by ‘jobless’ EU migrants.

Research[2] suggests that EU migrants are less likely than UK nationals to claim any form of benefits so the prevention of exploitation by targeting EU migrants is questionable. Furthermore, who are the jobless EU migrants – are they a composite group? Finally, as these measures will not apply to jobless nationals, would such action be compatible with EU law? There is indeed little free movement for jobless migrants under EU law[3] but when is an EU migrant ‘jobless’?

The ‘Jobless’

Focusing on the ‘jobless’ draws a broad distinction between this group and EU migrant ‘workers’: the former have few rights under EU law while the latter have many. Article 45 TFEU provides free movement to workers within the EU. A worker under EU law is a person who is employed: in Lawrie Blum and Collins the CJEU defined a worker as a person who provides services under direction of another for remuneration. The work itself must constitute a ‘genuine economic activity’: in Steymann the provision of maintenance tasks for was seen as such whereas in Bettray work conducted as part of a rehabilitation scheme was not. The number of hours worked and level of salary are irrelevant to the definition.[4]

The Citizenship Directive (CD) adopted in 2004 guarantees migrant EU workers and other ‘qualified persons’[5] equal treatment with nationals in the territory of a host member state. Migrant EU workers benefit from non-discrimination on the grounds of nationality – they and their family members are to be treated in the same way as any national worker, in relation to work, education and access to benefits. Conditions for this equal treatment are set out in Chapter III of the CD. Continue reading

Case Comment: Hay (C-267/12)

Michèle Finck, University of Oxford

2013 has been described as ‘the greatest year in gay rights history’. While this statement might be somewhat exaggerated, at least in the EU, important progress has been achieved. Also across the Atlantic, in the U.S., a number of States have legalized gay marriage, the Supreme Court has handed down a historic gay marriage ruling, and the federal legislature might, finally, pass legislation that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation after the Senate’s approval.

Also in Europe, society and legal orders mirror an increased acceptance of homosexuality. Recently, a new government took office in Luxembourg, headed by an openly gay Prime Minister and an openly gay Deputy Prime Minister, making it only the third country in the world that was ever headed by a person not representing themselves as heterosexual (after Belgium and Iceland). Same-sex couples will be able to marry in England and Wales from March 2014.  Also, in 2013 France legalized gay marriage and adoption. A few weeks ago, the CJEU handed down an important judgment regarding homosexual asylum seekers. Over the past year, same-sex marriage bills were introduced in the United Kingdom, Finland, and Luxembourg. Ireland held a constitutional convention on the issue of gay marriage and will organize a referendum on the matter in 2015. Continue reading

Case Comment: Minister voor Immigratie en Asiel v X (C-199/12) Y (C-200/12) and Z

Anita PicAnita Davies

The case concerned the interpretation of Council Directive 2004/83/EC on minimum standards for the qualifications and status of third-country nationals or Stateless persons as refugees or as persons otherwise needing international protection and the content of the protection granted.

The applicants in this case were from Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal. They had all applied for asylum in the Netherlands between 2009 and 2011 and in support of their applications had claimed that they should be granted refugee status on the grounds that they had reason to fear persecution in their respective countries of origin on account of their homosexuality. In Sierra Leone homosexual acts are punishable by a sentence of imprisonment of 10 years to life. In Uganda anyone found guilty of ‘carnal knowledge of any person against the order of nature’ is liable to a term of imprisonment for which the maximum sentence is life. In Senegal there is a sentence of one to five years imprisonment or 100,000 – 500,000 CFA francs. The applications for asylum were refused. Following a series of appeals, the Raad van State made an application to the CJEU asking for clarification on the content of Article 9 (acts of persecution) and Article 10 (members of a particular social group) of the directive.

The questions referred were:

  1. Whether foreign nationals with a homosexual orientation form a particular ‘social group’ for the purposes of the Directive;
  2. Which homosexual activities might fall within the scope of the Directive:

(a) whether gay men could be expected to conceal their orientation from everyone in their country of origin in order to avoid persecution;

(b) whether gay men could be expected to exercise restraint, and if so, to what extent, when giving expression to that sexual orientation in their country of origin, in order to avoid persecution;

(c) whether distinctions can be made between forms of expression which relate to the core area of sexual orientation and forms of expression which do not).

3. Whether the criminalisation of homosexuality amounts to persecutory treatment per se. Continue reading

Case Comment: AG’s Opinion in X, Y and Z v Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel (C‑199/12, C‑200/12 and C‑201/12)

Karon Monaghan QC

On 11th July 2013, Advocate General Sharpston delivered her Opinion in X, Y and Z v Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel (joined Cases C‑199/12, C‑200/12 and C‑201/12). The case concerned three nationals, X, Y and Z, of respectively Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal, all of whom are gay. They sought refugee status in the Netherlands, claiming a well- founded fear of persecution in their home countries based on their sexual orientation, relying, inter alia, on the fact that homosexuality is criminalized in Sierra Leone, Uganda and Senegal.

Their claims to refugee status fell to be considered under the EU Qualifications Directive 2004/83/EU (‘on minimum standards for the qualification and status of third country nationals or stateless persons as refugees or as persons who otherwise need international protection and the content of the protection granted’). Replicating provision made under the Geneva Convention, the Directive defines a ‘refugee’ as a ‘third country national who, owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a particular social group, is outside the country of nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country’. Further, as to persecutory acts, the Directive provides that  ‘9(1) Acts of persecution within the meaning of Article 1 A of the Geneva Convention must: (a) be sufficiently serious by their nature or repetition as to constitute a severe violation of basic human rights, in particular the rights from which derogation cannot be made under Article 15(2) of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms [including Articles 2 and 3]; or (b) be an accumulation of various measures, including violations of human rights which is sufficiently severe as to affect an individual in a similar manner as mentioned in (a)’; ‘9(2). Acts of persecution as qualified in paragraph 1, can, inter alia, take the form of: (a) acts of physical or mental violence, including acts of sexual violence; (b) legal, administrative, police, and/or judicial measures which are in themselves discriminatory or which are implemented in a discriminatory manner; (c) prosecution or punishment, which is disproportionate or discriminatory; (d) denial of judicial redress resulting in a disproportionate or discriminatory punishment’. Continue reading

Black experiences of policing: the conversation continues

TrayvonDr Iyiola Solanke

In July 2013, a group of activists, academics and lawyers gathered at Matrix Chambers and the University of Leeds School of Law to continue the conversation on black experiences of policing in the EU. This topic has recently received media coverage, not only here in the UK but also in Germany (the NSU trial), Sweden (the riots in Husby and elsewhere), and Greece (the ‘Golden Dawn’ effect).  The trial of George Zimmerman for the murder of black teenager Trayvon Martin[1] in the USA provided a global backdrop for the Roundtables. The ‘not guilty’ verdict [2]delivered by an all white Southern female jury was followed by widespread outrage and a discussion of the ‘Stand Your Ground’ rules under which Zimmerman was tried.[3] Perversely, while African-American children worried about whether they could walk the streets safely, somebody invented ‘trayvoning’ (adopting the pose of Trayvon’s lifeless corpse).

The Roundtables focused on the policing of racist violence as well as violent and racist policing. Discussions were set within the context of the new Europol Package proposed by the Commission in March 2013. The Europol Package aims to anchor the powers for policing in the EU in a binding Regulation and merge the operational activities of Europol with the training activities of CEPOL. Under the plans, CEPOL would become a department within Europol. It is questionable whether Articles 87 and 88 TFEU provide the powers for the envisaged reorganization and expansion of Europol. It is also questionable whether Europol could improve black experiences of policing across the EU. Continue reading

UK treatment of EU migrants under scrutiny in Brussels

Dr Iyiola Solanke

Readers of EUtopia Law may recall my comments in May on the government plans to introduce a duty upon landlords to check the immigration status of their tenants. I stressed that the proposed checks were likely to breach UK obligations under EU law. Since then, the plans have been modified in order to reduce the administrative burden and limit the reach of the envisaged rules. The intention now is to target the landlord duty only on those renting out properties in certain boroughs that are popular with migrants, such as Ealing and Hounslow in West London.[1] I would contend that this does not rid the policy of problems, but changes them: such a focus is likely to breach the EU Race Directive 2000/43[2], as well as the public sector equality duty (PSED) in Section 149 of the Equality Act 2010.[3]

The EU Race Directive sets out a framework for combating discrimination on the grounds of race and ethnicity. The scope, set out in Article 3 covers both public and private sectors and includes housing. Although the Directive explicitly excludes nationality, the landlord duty as currently envisaged is likely to disproportionately affect British black and minority ethnic communities. As a consequence of the demographics of housing, it is likely to prove difficult to target areas with high numbers of migrant populations without also targeting settled communities of colour. Ealing and Hounslow are examples of this: Lambeth and Stratford in South and East London are others. Beyond the Race Directive, the government should also consider the PSED, under which all public authorities must have ‘due regard to the need to’ not only eliminate conduct prohibited by Act, but also advance equality of opportunity and, perhaps most relevant to the landlord duty, foster good relations. The modifications may therefore be unlawful under national as well as EU law. Continue reading

Addressing Violent Racist Policing – A Priority for Policing in the EU

Dr Iyiola Solanke

May has not been a good month for policing in the EU. The service that they provide has been under the spotlight in various member states. The policing of racist violence is on trial in Germany, where the process against neo-Nazi Beate Zschäpe began this month. The alleged co-founder of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) terrorist group is accused with four other people of involvement in 10 murders of Turkish-Germans between 2000 and 2006, as well as in a bomb attack on a Turkish-German district of Cologne. The NSU had apparently believed that the German nation was under threat and had decided to save it by randomly executing Germans of Turkish descent. Each victim was shot: in the head, through the face, in the neck. The first victim was Enver Simsek, a flower seller from Nuremburg – he was found in the back of his delivery van with eight bullets in his body. He had been assassinated – shot at close range and his body fired into when he was already immobile. The last victim was Halit Yozgat, murdered whilst at work in his Internet cafe in Kassel. On trial is not only Zschäpe but the German police: they refused to acknowledge a racist motive behind the murders and treated them instead as gang killings, suspecting the families instead of supporting them.[1] The catalogue of errors by law enforcement officials ensuing from that basic blindness has led to comparisons with the murder of black teenager Stephen Lawrence in Britain 20 years ago and similar accusations of institutional racism.

The continuing problem of racist and violent policing is highlighted by riots in Sweden. Six nights of violence in May exposed the hidden tensions between the police and minority ethnic communities: schools have been set ablaze, businesses smashed up and stones thrown at police. The battles have left the international image of peaceful Swedish integration that we all believed in tatters – as is often the case it was only the voiceless victims who knew the reality. The violence has apparently been a long time coming: police have for years harassed black and ethnic minority citizens, and even those white Swedes associated with them. As in Germany, blinkered police interpretation played a leading role: arriving home with his Finnish wife after being chased by a gang of youths, a 69-year-old Swede of Portuguese origin emerged from his house brandishing a knife to confront the marauders; police arriving on the scene assumed they were dealing with a situation of domestic violence, broke into his home and shot him dead, in front of his wife. Who needs Elizabethan drama? The 21st century is littered with its own tragi-farcical material. The police then apparently inflamed the situation by calling the rioters ‘monkeys’ and ‘negroes.’[2] Continue reading

Racism, Human Rights and Policing Wrongs

Dr Iyiola Solanke

April 22nd 2013 marked the 20th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. His life and brutal death remains an important watershed for the pursuit of racial equality in Britain, especially via the use of anti-racial discrimination law. The murder by a gang of racist thugs of a young, well educated black man who planned to become an architect touched the nation and triggered a new era in legislative action. The determined campaign of a devastated family led to the MacPherson Report which gave formal recognition to the idea of institutional racism. The acknowledgment of this idea changed the way in which law tackled racial discrimination – it lead to the introduction of a ‘public sector equality duty’ (PSED) which placed an obligation upon public authorities to promote racial equality and foster good race relations.  The last Labour government saw fit to extend this duty from race to all protected characteristics listed in Section 1 of the Equality Act 2010; last year, however, Conservative Home Minister Theresa May launched a consultation to consider its removal. Perhaps she thinks it is unnecessary? Continue reading